Muhammad bin Qasim
Muhammad bin Qasim (c. 695 - 715) was an Arab general who captured Sindh and started the Islamic era in South Asia.
Muhammad bin Qasim was born around 695, his father died when he was young, so his education was handled by his mother. One of his close relatives was the Umayyad governor Hajjaj bin Yousef who was instrumental in teaching Muhammad bin Qasim about warfare and governing.
With Hajjaj's patronage, he was made governor of Persia where he put down a rebellion. At the age of seventeen, he was sent by caliph al-Walid I to lead an army into Sindh in India. The Umayyad reasoning for this attack was to rescue some pilgrims that were taken captive by Hindu pirates.
Bin Qasim was successful, rapidly taking all of Sindh and moving into southern Punjab up to Multan. The forces of Muhammad bin Qasim defeated Raja Dahar, and took his daughters captive (they were sent to Damascus). The raiders demolished temples, shattered "idolatorous" artwork and killed many men enslaving the women and children. On his arrival at the town of Brahminabad he massacred between 6,000 and 16,000 men.
After the violence Qasim attempted to establish law and order in the newly-conquered territory by allowing a degree of religious tolerance. He was countermanded by Hajjaj who insisted on a more hardline policy. Despite these noted atrocities, as a whole populations of conquered territories were treated as people of the book and granted religious toleration of their Hindu beliefs in return for payment of the poll tax (jizya). Brahmin caste system was tolerated and little conversion of conquered populations was attempted. http://radar.ngcsu.edu/~mgilbert/indiasyl.htm
He also began preparations for an attack on Rajasthan. In the interim though, Hajjaj bin Yousef died, as did the caliph al-Walid I. The new caliph, Suleiman was a political enemy of Hajjaj and recalled Muhammad bin Qasim using the claims of Raja Dahar's daughters as a pretense (they claimed that bin Qasim had not treated them right - the validity of this claim is questionable). Bin Qasim was wrapped in oxen hides and returned to Syria. He could have very well not followed the caliphs order, but he did. Muhammad bin Qasim died in jail, at the age of twenty.
Bin Qasim's rapid gains at such a young age have led many scholars to speculate on how much he could have achieved had he been given the chance. Some have written that he may have taken all of South Asia, but whether or not this is valid is debatable.
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